Heller Profiles

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Noella Bigirimana

Rwanda

MS '15

Passionate about strengthening health care in her native Rwanda

Noella Bigirimana learns tools to diagnose a health system

While Noella was growing up in Rwanda, her parents were both employed in the health care system, providing her with early exposure to the field. She fondly remembers spending afternoons with her mother at the community health center. During her undergraduate studies at Cornell University, Noella studied Human Biology and Global Health. Over the summers she returned to Rwanda, where she held internships related to maternal health and HIV/AIDS.

Noella became interested in the Heller School while working at Team Heart, an organization whose mission is to provide sustainable, comprehensive cardiovascular care in Rwanda. Noella still conducts research for Team Heart. It’s an opportunity that allows her to draw on the skills and concepts she’s learned in class.

“This program helps you take a step back and see the whole system,” Noella says. “Understanding the whole system helps you identify and understand gaps in the system.”

Noella’s favorite aspect of Heller is the practicality of her courses. She notes that professors often talk about their own projects in class, allowing students to immediately conceptualize direct applications of class material. Noella says each of her courses provides different benefits in rounding out her skill set. Health Information Systems, for example, has provided her with the necessary tools to diagnose a health system, while Introduction to STATA has increased her familiarity with data management.

Noella feels the diversity of the student body greatly enriches classroom discussions. “At Heller, you benefit from others’ experiences and are challenged in your own perceptions,” she says.

Noella’s classes and classmates have broadened her perspective on health care, allowing her to think strategically about key health care issues. After graduating from Heller, she plans to eventually return to Rwanda to help strengthen the country’s health care system.  

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